By Frances Clause
When customers walk into Her Primitive Ways Red Road Apothecary in Youngstown, they’re greeted by the aroma of artisan teas and tisanes, herbs, spices and fragrant incense burning in a cauldron.
On Saturday, the Elm Street shop that typically provides tarot card readings and spiritual counseling was full of kittens roaming the space for Campus Cat’s adoption event, Feline Fall Fest.
Campus Cats TNR, which stands for trap, neuter, release or return, at Youngstown State University is a group formed by YSU Honors College students to help decrease the feral cat population on campus.
Lauren Rager, a sophomore biology major and the president and founder of Campus Cats, said she decided to form the group after trying to catch a feral cat her first few days of classes during her freshman year.
“Throughout the week, I saw more and more cats, and I realized it was a really big problem on campus. So, our group originally started with trapping the feral cats and getting them spayed and neutered and then released,” she said.
Partnering with the apothecary proved to be successful as $300 was raised for cat supplies and four kittens were adopted.
Lizziey Terrell, a senior psychology major, said the relationship with the apothecary’s owner started when she reached out about three rescue kittens. Terrell and another member of Campus Cats picked the kittens up, and the bond with the shop has only grown.
“The apothecary owner also gave us a special oil for another cat with a skin condition, and it worked amazingly well,” she said. “So we’ve kept a good relationship with the business and owner.”
Owner Shannon Blackshire is no stranger to hosting events, but they don’t typically involve adopting cats.
Blackshire’s Tarot and Tea Thursdays and Witchcraft Wednesdays are among the events that aim to debunk misconceptions of witchcraft and show how to incorporate cultural practices that benefit the mind and body.
“A lot of the products that I make are meant for self-care practices. I use a lot of natural holistic products, too, so bath salts, facial steams, soaps that are made organically, herbal tinctures, teas that not only have medicinal properties but are also aromatic,” she said.
These natural remedies are not often associated with witchcraft, and Blackshire said there are many misconceptions about those who practice it.
“First of all, [witches] aren’t all green-skinned, haggy nose, warts and cackle over cauldrons, although that’s fun to do,” she said. “Usually, witch stands for a woman or person who owns their personal power, knowing they can affect their environment, as well as be affected by their environment.”
Blackshire’s goal is to get her apothecary visitors more in tune by connecting with who they are and balancing the seasons and cycles within themselves and their environment.
“We live in a world that is very chaotic, crazy and hectic, and sometimes we forget to slow down and take care of ourselves,” she said. “Her Primitive Ways became a place to connect to our ancestral and cultural practices that we have gotten so far away from in the modern world.”